Posted: 9:00 am Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Cracking the door on medicinal marijuana in Georgia 

By Jim Galloway

Surely you’ve noticed that the meaning of conservatism has undergone a not-so-gradual makeover in the last few years.

The most obvious marker has been gay marriage. Ten years ago, more than three-fourths of 3.2 million Georgia voters approved a constitutional ban on such unions.

Perhaps a majority in this state would still endorse that sentiment. But polls clearly indicate an age-oriented shift, even among Republicans. By the time my generation cleans out its desk and exits the building, same-sex matrimony will be an accepted social fact, even in the South.

Another counterculture taboo has just begun to wobble. Two states – Colorado and Washington — now allow recreational use of marijuana. More importantly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week took a first step toward making New York the 21st state to legalize the use of pot for medicinal purposes.

Even in Georgia, we are experiencing the first stirrings of official curiosity. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, one of the younger members of the state Senate, has proposed a bit of fact-finding on medicinal uses for marijuana. And whether Georgia’s limited 1980s-era law, allowing the use of pot for the treatment of glaucoma and cancer, ought to be expanded.

“There’s not a piece of legislation. What I’m interested in doing is having a hearing so we can bring some medical experts forward to tell us, one way or the other,” McKoon said.

One potential witness: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the Emory University neurosurgeon/journalist whose CNN documentary, “Weed,” aired a few months ago. The 45-minute report is a kind of antidote to “Reefer Madness,” the 1930s cult classic that helped put marijuana on the federal list of banned substances.

Gupta showed how pot – or its refined ingredients – could help control some seizures in children. He now argues that researchers have overemphasized marijuana’s dangers, and ignored its potential benefits.

The CNN piece sparked McKoon’s interest. “I see [Gupta] as a sober-minded person. That got my attention,” the state lawmaker said.

“I’ve had constituents who have children with seizure disorder. I’ve had constituents who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments who say it would be helpful for pain,” McKoon said. “I just want to separate the facts from fiction. You could have a handful of these anecdotal stories without really knowing for sure.”

For the moment, leaders in the state Capitol appear willing to let McKoon proceed with the hearings, which the senator hopes to hold during the 40-day legislative session that begins Monday.

“I want to look at the science. I want to look at the medicine,” House Speaker David Ralston said last week. Senate President pro tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, likewise appears amenable.

“I have never been an advocate for liberalizing marijuana laws, but I am open to our studying potential medical applications,” Shafer said in an emailed statement. “It is unfortunate that some states have clouded the issue by using a medical justification to effectively legalize recreational use.”

Among the Capitol’s authority figures, Gov. Nathan Deal was the most wary. “I think it’s a subject that needs very detailed discussion. I’ve heard mixed reports,” the governor said Friday. “If we amend the law, I don’t want to create a significant problem that expands marijuana use in the state. I don’t think a majority of voters want that.”

McKoon said he can’t see himself ever voting to legalize marijuana for recreational use. But he agrees that, as with gay marriage, it is the increasing influence of libertarian conservatives within the GOP that makes a reassessment of marijuana use possible.

“If I had four town hall meetings in my district, maybe at one of those town hall meetings someone would stand up and ask about legalized marijuana,” he said. “And I think that those folks would self-identify as liberty-movement Republicans.”

But as political issues go, McKoon argues that there’s an important distinction between gay marriage and marijuana. Gay marriage, he contends, has been pushed along primarily through court action.

“With the marijuana issue, you’ve seen legislatures across the country deal with it in different ways,” McKoon said. “And frankly, that’s one of the things I’d want the study committee to do. Now that we’ve got so many states that have done something, let’s see what their experience has done.”

It’s the more “organic” way to proceed, McKoon said. And the pun was absolutely unintended.

35 comments
Firstname Lastname
Firstname Lastname

Nathan Deal you are wrong to try and tell other people what they can and cannot put into their bodies. If YOU don't want to smoke marijuana, then don't. You do not have the right to dictate what the rest of the state would want in income to every part of the state, including schools, hospitals, police, ambulance and fire, road repair, water and sewage, farming and manufacturing. Yes, more people would smoke it, or eat it or drink it. Again, YOU DON'T HAVE TO, but people that could feed their families with a job selling it to others just like every other crop should have that ability. Thankfully this vote is not up to you Nathan Deal. You won't even be the Governor for very much longer. Lots of other people can and will do a better job to remove the stigma and outright lies tied to Marijuana. How much money are you receiving from the Pharmaceutical and Private Prison lobby Nathan Deal? 

GuyOnThisSite
GuyOnThisSite

Unless you have a damn good reason for it being illegal (most of the first laws against it were motivated by racism), you need to make it legal. "I'm not sure what it does" is not a good reason to make something illegal. "Black people do it" certainly wasn't then, isn't now. "It's been illegal, so it should stay illegal" isn't a good reason. "There's no evidence it has a medical benefit" isn't a good reason. There are lots of legal things that have no medical benefit.


Find me an actual reason why it should be illegal for citizens over 18, and then we can talk. But until you find that, you should make it legal. Anything else shows that you are an authoritarian jerk who doesn't care a whit about freedom.


Also... Loving the hypocrite Democrats talking about hypocrite Republicans. You're going to rewrite history and make it as if only the GOP was holding pot back from legality? Not on my watch. Go back and see who voted to make it illegal in the first place. You'll find a whole lot of Democrats.

The-Centrist
The-Centrist

By the way, Jim, for what it's worth, I like the new format...

eTalker
eTalker

What is it about republican politicians and their desire to be hypocrites?  They claim to be in favor of freedom and less government, yet they support every measure that restricts freedom and impose more government at every opportunity. I'd bet any money most of them have smoked weed.



deerockin
deerockin

We are also having an event at the state capitol on Tuesday January 21st. Come out and speak to your representative and show your support to change 40 years of a failed drug policy.

deerockin
deerockin

If you want to continue the conversation, get involved, and change these outdated policies that waste money, funnel power to violent criminal organizations, and imprison millions of otherwise innocent people every year, join the Peachtree NORML (National Organization for Reformed Marijuana Laws) facebook page:


https://www.facebook.com/groups/peachtreenorml/

DewieCheatem_n_Howe
DewieCheatem_n_Howe

No matter what the state does regarding cannabis, there is still the small matter of the Feds still listing it as a Schedule 1 narcotic along with heroin and LSD. It is time the country as a whole addresses how much personal freedom we really have anyway.  

There is a reason that it has been proven to have been cultivated by man long before Paul Broun's dawn of time. I know there is an industry built around its ban but couldn't those efforts be better utilized elsewhere. If George Washington decided that regulating and taxing alcohol created a revenue stream to pay down the federal debt then maybe we should look at taxing a less harmful substance to help do the same in this era.

tomkat1111
tomkat1111

I think medical doctors should make the decision on medical pot use. Not legislators or the police.

Gregory KarlDavis
Gregory KarlDavis

§ 26-4-29. Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency; continuance; appointment, requirements, and duties of director; power to make arrests; report of violations of drug laws; dangerous drug list (e) The Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency shall compile and submit to the General Assembly during each annual legislative session a list of known dangerous drugs as defined in subsection (a) of Code Section 16-13-71 and any other drugs or devices which the board has determined may be dangerous or detrimental to the public health and safety and should require a prescription, and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency shall assist the State Board of Pharmacy during each annual legislative session by compiling and submitting a list of substances to add to or RESCHEDULE substances enumerated in the schedules in Code Sections 16-13-25 through 16-13-29 by using the guidelines set forth in Code Section 16-13-22. 

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

"By the time my generation cleans out its desk and exits the building, same-sex matrimony will be an accepted social fact, even in the South."

Accepted is probably way too strong a sentiment.  That aberrant lifestyle may only be more "tolerated" by the majority.  Same-sex matrimony may even be forced to be recognized by laws, but many laws do not come close to acceptance (think speeding).

styymy
styymy

Are you kidding me??? Georgia just RECENTLY figured out Sunday alcohol sales. It'll take another 50 years before Georgia can figure anything regarding marijuana. If you want marijuana, I suggest you plan on moving.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Wow, Kentucky sounds soooo far ahead of Gerorgia on every front.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

I don't use it but it really sounds like it does some good. let's give it a try.

Gregory KarlDavis
Gregory KarlDavis

Medicinal Cannabis Hearing Arouses Passions (KENTUCKY)

The legalization of medical marijuana was the subject of a lively hearing before the Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee Thursday, Jan. 9th 2014

Legislators heard emotional testimony from parents who say their children have benefited from the treatment.

"Medicinal cannabis is on the rise. There is something going on here. There is a therapeutic benefit and I truly believe it is coming to Kentucky," Josh Stanley with the Realm of Caring Dispensary in Colorado told the panel... the story continues on this link...

http://wuky.org/post/medicinal-cannabis-hearing-arouses-passions

RomeGaGuy
RomeGaGuy

90 days? When did they expand the legislative session?

honested
honested

Let's step very carefully, as Georgia is one of many states that has allowed 'for profit private prisons' that rely on nonviolent drug offenders to maintain their 'entitlement' to taxpayer funds.


We wouldn't want common sense to interfere with a right to 'profit' now would we?

Brian3000
Brian3000

Can you imagine how much money you'd provide to struggling GA farmers if they could grow marijuana? Not to mention the billions wasted on prosecuting/enforcing stupid pot laws.  Violent criminals are getting lighter sentences and cops don't have the manpower to effectively deal with them because of our stupid prohibition of marijuana.  Our courts are clogged, schools are being cut, and you prudes would rather put those billions in the pocket of the black market/cartels rather than into GA schools/police depts etc.  it's INSANE>

Formerlytheprof
Formerlytheprof

My CP child could potentially benefit from a liquid derivative of marijuana to control her intractable and terminal seizure condition.  Why in the heck can we not be forward thinking enough as a state to allow exemptions for cases such as this? 

Bhorsoft
Bhorsoft

In states where medical marijuana is legal I could get if for both my glaucoma and my multiple sclerosis.  My eye doctor here says it does work to relieve the pressure in the eye and studies have shown it relieves spasticity in MS patients by 30%.  Sure wish I could get it here.


As aside, one of the "side effects" of smoking marijuana is "the munchies" - an increased appetite.  I know that folks on chemo could sure use a case of "the munchies" every once in a while to counter the loss of appetite/nausea of chemo.


Unfortunately, two groups will fight legalization for medical use.  Law enforcement - they get millions (if not billions) to fight drugs, and pharmaceutical companies - they can't make any money off of it and it would divert patients from drugs that are over priced and they can make a buck from.

ImmortalIllumined
ImmortalIllumined

the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING!!!13


from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%...it all started with cali, and the west coast outlaw states...

20 years behind us Georgia, sad and scary...nobody denies freedom like the south, nobody...we knew from day one we would have the other 40+ states before you and your ilk ever joined us....no matter though, we are not gonna need you, love and freedom will win

AMERICA'S WAR ON DRUGS IS A WAR ON AMERICANS!!!33

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

A doctor says marijuana will relieve the side effects of my chemotherapy and/or glaucoma, but in jawja the doctor can't prescribe it for me. Gosh, I seem to remember someone saying the gummint has no business dictating healthcare decisions. Hypocrisy much, repubs?

Chram
Chram

Well written article. As a former Atlantan, now living in CA, it is like living in another country. Atlanta is progressive but has always been held back by being a part of GA. GA is decades behind the times on several issues. Change will eventually come to GA like it has to Colorado and even Utah, but Atlanta deserves better. It certainly does well though considering what it has to work with at the statewide level. 

notagain
notagain

Freedom of speech,If not your would not be here...As for mj once it's legalized will be same as other get high concoctions.

Milton1960
Milton1960

My wife and I have seen at least 15 close relatives and friends suffer from terminal illnesses, some but not all cancer. Yet, we have not seen the use of cannabis in the treatment of any of these cases. From what I have seen, the current law is not being used in many terminal cases. That being said, I am very libertarian when it comes to using cannabis for medical purposes. Use it because it works.

zekeI
zekeI

Pills perscribed by competent medical doctors that contain the drug, maybe! But allowing the sale to anyone, NO!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"And whether Georgia’s limited 1980s-era law, allowing the use of pot for the treatment of glaucoma and cancer, ought to be expanded."

==========================================


This is so true.  I know of several people, one personally, in their late 30s or early 40s with cancer, and legalizing marijuana for medical reasons might literally save their lives for decades.


Also, two of my mother's siblings had glaucoma.


Legislators, let's, together, make Georgia into a more humane, progressive (in the best sense) state.  Thank you for your openness to medicinal marijuana's becoming legal in Georgia.

Bernie31
Bernie31

Name ONE SUBJECT Matter that Georgia has Been Progressive on....other HATRED,BIGOTRY, PREJUDICE  and RACISM?


ALL the things that are most Despised by our Heavenly Father.


There are NONE that are Positive or Uplifting for the People and it should not be LQQKED for or expected on this Topic as well.

MoFaux
MoFaux

@GuyOnThisSite If I'm not mistaken, Carter was interested in legalizing, or at least decriminalizing weed until someone on his staff got busted snorting cocaine.  After that, the topic was shelved because he didn't want to go down as the drug prez.  But yeah, it took many fools from both parties to continue this insanity.

hobbit57
hobbit57

@The_CentristLIke most folks around here had to hold their noses and "tolerate" black folks having the vote?

BuckheadBoy
BuckheadBoy

@The_Centrist Except that "aberrant" is abdicable; and the Grim Reaper disposes of those incapable of recognizing that.

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

@The_Centrist Actually my friend, those of us who believe in freedom to make our own choices as to the person we love, without the heavy hand of government involvement, could not possibly care less whether you think it's 'an aberrant lifestyle.'

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

@Brian3000And consider the uses for the stalks and what is called "hemp". Rugs, clothes, rope, blanketing, etc.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@hobbit57@The_Centrist

Hobbit 57 - If I were YOU...I would Move!  Far Away!  But You are Broke..You cannot Move. You are in the very spot where the Blacks You despise so are.


LITERALLY!  

Tomorrow if you notice a LOT of EYES on YOU...the WORD IS OUT.